Once Treatment Finishes | Finding Your 'New Normal'
Inspired by the discussions based on the New Normal card and a Facebook post by the mum of a friend who died of cancer, I just wanted to share a little insight into what it’s like when you have received a cancer diagnosis and what it is can feel like when treatment finishes.
If you or a loved one has just been given the all clear, I hope the following helps you understand better.
When treatment is done, it’s natural for friends and family to want to rejoice and think it’s ‘all over’. And believe that you will be feeling overjoyed. Everyone feels such a sense of relief…but that is often everyone apart from the person themselves.
Surely you should embrace this second chance you’ve been given! However, no matter how badly we want our old lives back and how grateful we are to still be here (especially when you have lost friends along the way) it can be very hard to reignite the spark and love of life you once had. It takes a while to recover from the emotional and physical trauma and, contrary to popular belief, with most cancers there is no such thing as being given ‘the all clear’. It can feel like there is a constant big black cloud of fear and anxiety that with every ache or cough that the cancer may have returned.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are cruel treatments, they leave scars, some of those scars are unseen and do the most damage. The physical after effects of treatment can have short and long term impacts on the health that can last for years and years after treatment finishes. Only time will heal.
You are immediately flung from being wrapped up in a medical ‘bubble’ to being cast out into a world that is unrecognisable from the one pre-cancer. While you are going through treatment you are constantly being looked after, checked, scanned and taking medication to keep the cancer away. Then one day there’s no medication and no constant appointments. You are on your own.
Accepting a cancer diagnosis takes time. There is so much information to get your head around and so many opinions and options to consider. Accepting it didn't happen overnight, neither will forgetting it.
Progress will happen, but allow it to happen naturally, don't push it, don't set high expectations.. Be kind to yourself and others that are challenged to accept this amazing news. Support each other and keep talking.
While it is normal to not spring back to the ‘old you’ and may take time to find your ‘new normal’, that doesn’t mean you need to suffer without seeking help. If you continue to find life difficult, tell your GP or oncology team, they will get you the help and support you need to get back on track. Burying it will just make you more depressed and you'll suffer in silence. We all need help to move forward, it's the least we deserve.
There is no doubt, being given a second chance at life is the best gift you can ever receive, and in good time the receiver of this gift will appreciate this. In the meantime, just be there, love them and be patient with them.